Senators had previously questioned Trump’s inaction on Uyghurs before Trump-Xi meeting at G20 summit


Washington (June 19, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined today by five Senate colleagues in asking the White House to respond to disturbing new reports that President Donald Trump told President Xi Jinping of China to continue using concentration camps to oppress Uyghurs and other Central Asian and Muslim minorities.  China has detained more than a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Hui in camps while using intrusive surveillance and other coercive measures in an attempt to erase their religion and culture. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called this conduct the “stain of the century.”


Last year, the Senators raised questions regarding conspicuous American inaction in implementing targeted financial sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for gross human rights violations, including against the Uyghurs. Their letter was sent the day before the G20 summit meeting at which it is now alleged that Trump told Xi that China should proceed with mass internment of minority groups. The Senators have addressed today’s follow-up letter to the current Deputy National Security Advisor, who reportedly heard President Trump make similar comments regarding internment camps during a trip to China in November 2017, in an effort to seek clarity from the White House on President Trump’s comments and policies regarding the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities within China.


“The American people, including the families of Uyghurs and other Central Asian and Muslim minorities, deserve to understand the full extent of our president’s possible complicity in human suffering and the flouting of universal values,” write the Senators in their letter to Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger. “We turn to you in your capacity as the top Asia adviser at the White House to clarify the position of the President of the United States on core human rights issues and to help Congress oversee the Administration’s conduct with respect to a great power competitor.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


Also signing the letter are Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Penn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).


In their letter, the Senators ask for responses to questions that include:

  • Do you have knowledge of communications of any kind between President Trump and Chinese government officials that have downplayed or endorsed, explicitly or implicitly, China’s construction of internment camps for Uyghurs or other ethnic or religious minorities?
  • Do you have knowledge of any similar communications between U.S. government officials other than the president and Chinese government officials?
  • Why has the president not yet applied targeted financial sanctions against Chinese government officials who bear direct responsibility for gross human rights violations in Xinjiang?
  • Has President Trump indicated to the Chinese government a willingness to refrain from commenting on or acting against human rights violations, including on a June 18, 2019 call during which he reportedly promised President Xi that he would not speak out on China’s response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks continued?
  • Are you aware of any instance in which a United States government official has suggested to a Chinese government official, explicitly or implicitly, that the policy of the United States with respect to human rights violations is contingent on China’s willingness to engage in actions that benefit the president personally, including through investigations of U.S. persons carried out by Chinese authorities?